Iconicity versus grammaticalization: a case study

John Haiman

in The Oxford Handbook of Grammaticalization

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199586783
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Iconicity versus grammaticalization: a case study

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


Show Summary Details


This article presents a case study concerning the differences between iconicity and grammaticalisation, focusing on the Hua and Khmer languages. It explains that among the universally acknowledged side-effects of economically motivated reduction in general and grammaticalization is the loss of semantic transparency and that one striking example of the trade-off between transparency and compactness is offered by the relatively exotic grammatical category of medial verbs commonly found in many Papuan languages. It contends that grammaticalisation through everyday use is the constant, cunning, and patient adversary of iconicity.

Keywords: iconicity; grammaticalisation; Hua language; Khmer language; semantic transparency; medial verbs; Papuan languages

Article.  4120 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.